I remember a professor wheeling a computer into class to demonstrate Netscape to a room full of people who had not yet seen the future in 1995. Textbooks required for the class included indexes of websites, books that cataloged websites. We coded the text of the university library’s public domain Red Riding Hood collection into HTML for the professor’s online project. Coding in some nondescript graduate English class I can’t remember the name of. Did publishing on the web even count? We said things like that and they gave us grades.
Jurgen Fauth had a German-language Internet literary magazine that year and he translated a story mine into German for Der Brennender Busch. (http://literaturwelt.de/brennender-busch/geschichten/minichillo.html). I’ve thrown a lot of stuff away from back then and I no longer own the original English version of “Tornado Story.” I had Google translate it for kicks, and Google turned my butterfly of a story back into an English caterpillar. I can only assume the story’s out there archived in German still shaking up the German literary landscape.
Fast forward to 2007. Jurgen Fauth was starting Fictionaut and he asked me to be an adviser. The Web was a weedy animal in 2007 but Fictionaut was invite-only, even to read then, and a lot of writers showed up out of curiosity. They posted their work and stayed around or left. I became very quickly aware of a body of work from writers joining Fictionaut through the peer vines.
I was working on a novel I believed in but getting tired of sending it to agents. I saw many writers who published a lot online also had books and I swore off envelopes and postage. There was Duotrope and online submission managers and one day I’m holding my own iPhone and I have a really good way to read the work of a foothill of writers online.
In 2011 there are human vessels I only know as Internet personas whose work I enjoy. All these writers connected on Facebook, Twitter, and e-lsewhere. I am Kindled. I write and edit on an iPad. I’m connected and disconnected. It’s not worth grinding up trees anymore. Paper is for origami and aeroplanes. For wrapping presents. There is this shiny new thing for writers called the blog post. If you fall asleep and wake up there will be something new. People announce online they are vacationing from the Internet cold turkey, then they pop up again after a week.
I prefer to be within range of WiFi unless I am sleeping or underwater. Probably, there are engineers working on this at this moment. Everything is getting smaller and cooler and new. I have this drum I play on the Internet where I subtly pester everyone to buy my novel and they do the same back. It’s exhausting and exciting and fun, all of us clacking on our keyboards.